Classy Getabird to justify Walsh's trip to Limerick
It's 22 years since Ruby Walsh spent his St Stephen's Day riding at Limerick so it says a lot about the 12-time champion jockey's opinion of Getabird that he's making a rare Christmas trip to the Patrickswell track.
With the Matchbook Betting Exchange Novice Chase (2.0) updated to Grade One status, the 39-year-old ventures west to ride the exciting Getabird for his boss Willie Mullins on just his second chase start.
The master of Closutton has dominated this prize, taking home the spoils five times in the last 10 years with smart sorts like Bellshill, Outlander and Sir Des Champs obliging as odds-on favourites.
Getabird will be similarly short in the betting as he goes right-handed again - something his form suggests is a major plus after flopping at Cheltenham last year - but while there was a lot to like about his debut effort at Punchestown 17 days ago, this is far from a penalty kick and Gordon Elliott's Hardline will give him lots to do.
A Grade Two winner over hurdles last season, Hardline has shown himself to be equally adept over the larger obstacles and impressed when landing a Navan Grade Three earlier this month.
Gigginstown's six-year-old is a tough and consistent sort and Keith Donoghue's mount will test Getabird and pick up the pieces should that rival deliver a sub-par performance.
Jessica Harrington's Jetz - with Robbie Power up - is no mug either and carries a rating of 144 based on his Drinmore third behind Delta Work and Le Richebourg but with the trip and track in his favour, Getabird should continue his upward curve and reward Walsh's faith.
Walsh has just three rides but all hold leading claims with Mullins' French recruit Mixmoon expected to go close in the Greenmount Equine Hospital 3-Y-O Maiden Hurdle (12.20).
The JP McManus-owned filly was third on her sole Flat start when trained by Guy Cherel and holds obvious claims, but Joseph O'Brien's Band Of Outlaws is preferred.
A few sloppy jumps late on cost him dearly when just going down to another Mullins inmate Maze Runner - which runs in a Leopardstown Grade Two today - but with a Flat rating of 93, he should shape even better for that experience under Irish National-winning jockey JJ Slevin.
The Signsplus Hurdle (12.50) is one of the races of the day as Elliott's well-touted Felix Desjy bids to bounce back having found the going tough in Grade Three Hurdles.
He will appreciate the drop in class but the Mullins-Walsh axis may have his number in Salsaretta, which was pitched into a Fairyhouse Grade One in April behind stable companion Laurina and is clearly well regarded.
In receipt of 7lbs from Felix Desjy, the five-year-old mare should have enough in hand to score and it would be a surprise if she isn't better than her current rating of 135.
The prospects of Denis Hogan's Moskovite in the O'Kelly Brothers Demolition Mares Handicap Hurdle (2.35) were given a significant boost with Honeysuckle's smooth Listed success at Thurles last Saturday, having chased her home at Fairyhouse on her penultimate start.
Moskovite subsequently bolted up in a maiden hurdle at Navan and has ground conditions to her liking today, which should see her defy top-weight with the ever-reliable Hogan aboard.
The Guinness Maiden Hurdle (1.25) is one of the more difficult puzzles to figure out and there are several in contention among the 17 runners with Charles Byrnes' Dont Go Mad worth a market check having shown plenty of ability in his four hurdle starts.
Jessica Harrington's Polished Steel is a more likely winner, however, having chased home Elliott's promising Battleoverdoyen at Navan 10 days ago making steady headway in the home straight. He finished ahead of Robert Tyner's Design Matters when the two met at Cork last month and they may dominate proceedings, with Polished Steel preferred.
Elliott introduces Larquebuse for owners Cheveley Park Stud in the Lyons Of Limerick Jaguar & Land Rover Mares INH Flat Race (3.45) and it will be a surprise if the impressive Durrow point-to-point winner doesn't oblige in the hands of crack amateur Jamie Codd.